Jeff Green | Sep 01, 2005
Nature Reflections - September 1, 2005
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Nature ReflectionsSeptember 1, 2005
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Gray MerriamLegaleseGeneral information and opinion on legal topics by Rural Legal ServicesNature Reflectionsby Jean GriffinNight Skiesby Leo Enright
by Jean Griffin
Working in my garden this morning I picked up a small ‘stone’ which suddenly moved in my hand. This less than two-inch ‘stone’ was actually a baby Blanding’s Turtle. I first thought it was a baby Snapping Turtle, so upon checking with my books on reptiles and amphibians, I was delighted to find that it was a Blanding’s.
I have seen Blanding’s Turtles here several times over the past few years, and in fact one year there were at least three that laid their eggs in my flower bed. But this year I had not seen any and I was concerned that this rather uncommon turtle was no longer around. The female must have visited my garden without my knowledge, and the eggs she had laid had managed to survive the hot, dry summer, and the threat of meandering Raccoons and Striped Skunks.
I only found one, so hope that other babies have also managed to hatch, and have perhaps moved on - or are not yet hatched. I took this one down to the edge of my pond, with the hope that it will be safe from predators, and be able to reach adulthood.
The uncommon Blanding’s Turtle has an elongated, smooth, high-domed carapace with irregular yellow or tan markings or dots, which may be absent in older turtles. It can be readily recognized by the bright yellow throat and chin as no other Canadian turtle has this marking. It prefers boggy, plant-filled, stable water bodies such as shallow lakes, wetlands and slow-moving streams and rivers. Females do not mature until at least 14 years or older (the baby I found has a long way to go!) but may live up to 80 years, and breed every other year. The female who visited my garden in late May, June or July may have laid up to 22 eggs, though more commonly 6 to 15, in "nests that are dug in areas of well-drained sandy loam or sand" (doesn’t sound like my garden!) though another source says they lay their eggs on rocky beaches, and put every rock back into place. Apparently the gender of the babies is determined by incubation temperature of the eggs.
An adult turtle may hiss when frightened and quickly draw into its shell where it can remain for hours. My baby made no sound, but did draw back into the shell. Blanding’s turtles spend most of their time in water, where they feed on fish, minnows, insects and other small aquatic life. While on land they will also eat vegetation. Baby turtles are eaten by predators such as Great Blue Herons, Shrews, Raccoons, and even ants - did that happen to any siblings of this one?